Career Explorations page


Name: Matthew Alcalde
Biological Sciences Minor: Psychology
Current Job Title: Director, Talent Acquisition Services
Employer: BioNJ

Tell us a bit about your life and career since graduation. How did you get your first job? How did you navigate to where you are now? Where do you live?
I currently live in Clifton, NJ. My career path is a bit unique because part of the journey, particularly the early years, felt like I was stumbling along. When I graduated from Rutgers in 2006, finding work in the pharmaceutical industry was difficult. At the time, I felt part of the reason was because many companies were looking for people with a chemistry background, which I did not have. But as I reflect back, I think the real truth was that I knew I didn't necessarily want to work in a science-specific function, even though my major was in biology. Somewhere along the line, I had a change of what I wanted to do, but like many young professionals, I had no clue what that meant in terms of career goals. This led me to take a number of roles, including working in public relations, marketing and advertising - positions completely out of the ordinary scope of my major. Now I can look back and see how valuable those years were…those early careers helped me develop my communication skills, understanding of customer service and business acumen. I found out my greatest strength was in the power of persuasion and communicating business strategies. Now I knew that bio-business was where I wanted to go. Luckily, I had continued to network with my former professors and colleagues I had met along the way when I was interning for an US Senate office in Newark. Those connections proved invaluable, as they eventually lead me to work for an US Department of Labor Grant called Bio-1, which worked with pharma and biotech businesses to train and develop their talent pipelines. Once again, a position entirely outside the scope of "science-related" functions gave me insight into what specific piece of business and sales I wanted to do - the business of people. Human Resources and talent recruitment were my strong point, and I was able to continue to build my network and communications skills to "sell" services which would enable companies to hire. Fast forward to today, and I continue to work within the workforce and talent development arena in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, which I love. Bottom line - your major doesn't always line up with what you end up wanting to do with your life.

Why did you choose your major and minor?
At the time, I wanted to go the Pre-Med route. Obviously, I didn't stick with that route, but along the way, I figured out how to diversify my science background into other areas of business, communications and marketing. I choose a minor in psychology because I was enjoying the classes I was already taking and as it turns out, psychology has taught me a lot about human behavior as it relates to business and sales.

How would you describe your greatest personal or professional accomplishment since graduating from Rutgers?
My greatest professional accomplishment was achieving something I saw a lot of my mentors do: Have the ability to influence people and programs in a positive way. The people I chose to look up to in my career created such a major impact in who I am today, and more importantly, in the success of so many programs and initiatives that have improved the chances of people to succeed in their own careers and endeavors. I'm glad I was able to live up to their expectations and be a mentor for others who are at a place in their lives that is all too familiar to me: lost, unsure of where to take their education or career and in need of advice that can change their lives. I'm happy I get to work in business development and talent acquisition services today, because I see the impact it has on those looking to enter the terrific careers in our industry. These successes have allowed the business clients I work with to look to me for advice and assistance.

How has your arts and sciences education at Rutgers benefited you? Is there a particular course, professor, or experience that was most meaningful? Please describe.
A liberal arts education provides students with a well-rounded view of the world. Some may not see the value of that when it comes to looking for a job, but I think endeavors like Rutgers Career Exploration are changing that. Why? Because a good employee and a successful career is way more than what you majored in. That is the main message we are all trying to convey. For me, the literature, public speaking and language courses are something that I still look at as a major learning experience. You can learn a lot from a good book about people and what drives them, and for any business major, that understanding of patterns in human behavior can play a big part in your success in any function you decide to apply to. I took a few essay writing courses as well, which strengthened my ability to write for purposes of persuasion and scientific depth. I also took a couple courses in Spanish literature, including a course on Medieval Spanish literature. I learned a lot about recognizing cultural differences and how major events impact people, communities and regions. Finally, public speaking courses were what helped me get to the point I am now where I am not freaked out every time I stand in front of a crowd. Being able to speak in public is a major benefit because people who listen to you will see how you can handle yourself. I'd say that this is even more important than a resume because people, some of which might be interested in hiring you, can see you in action.

What advice can you offer to School of Arts and Sciences undergraduates about how to successfully connect their education in arts and sciences to their lives and careers after college?
Be okay with stumbling. If you're in a job that isn't related to your major, that's okay. Learn what you can from it and make sure you're ready to move on to the next role that will get you closer to your goal. If you're in a job that you're bored at, that's okay, as long as you don't quit without a strategy in mind. I'd rather people are bored than so complacent that they end up in the same, dead-end job 10 years from now, wondering what happened to their lives. If you're bored, ask yourself why. Should I ask my boss for more meaningful work? Is this not the job for me? What can I learn from this job as a silver lining to a bleak situation? Am I beginning my search strategically for my next move?